Through The Repellent Fence: A Land Art Film is a documentary screening at the South By SouthWest Conference and Festival.
It’s about a trio of Indigenous artists (they create under the collective name Postcommodity) who are putting up an art installation, a wall or a fence if you will, between Mexico and the U.S. It is not meant as a separation in the way that Donald Trump intends his, rather, it’s meant as a fence that can bridge the two cultures\countries, and it will travel not along the border but a mile into each country.
It’s clear that the artists have put much thought into how this piece of land art will be perceived. They want something temporary, first of all, so as not to permanently alter the land. Think of sutures: something that dissolves after the healing is done. To that end, they come to a beautiful and striking solution of tethering helium-filled balloons. However, the fence is not just symbolic of connectedness, but represents an awful lot of actual collaboration between peoples and communities to make this art happen.
It’s not just about the art, though, but also of our reaction to it. The documentary allows us to talk about borders: real, shifting, fluid, imagined, and imposed. I watched it for exactly this reason: the art spoke to me, but the reasons are what compel, and are why a documentary is a great companion piece to such an important work. But it turns out the documentary, directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas, is thoughtful, intelligent, and a piece with its own inherent value. Its flavour is distinctly Indigenous, serving as a reminder that borders are a construct but life within and around them is always so much more rich and complex than we see in typical media portrayals.The documentary is also surprisingly beautiful, gorgeously lensed by cinematographer David Layton, with sweeping shots of some of the most cinematic landscapes on the planet.
Through The Repellent Fence, a worthy addition to the SXSW lineup, is screening at Rollins Theatre at The Long Center on Saturday, March 11, 4:30pm, and again at Alamo Lamar on Monday, March 13 and Friday, March 17. It’s visually intoxicating and culturally significant: you have nothing to lose.
Starting today, we’ll be in Austin taking in as much SXSW goodness as we can handle. Follow along on Twitter at @assholemovies!